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Indiana Retailer Cork Liquors Goes Against The Grain

February 7, 2017

Warren Scheidt’s 12-unit Cork Liquors chain has grown to become one of southern Indiana’s largest beverage alcohol retail chains.The company boasts stores in Columbus, Shelbyville and Greensburg, ranging in size from 2,000 to 13,000 square feet. Scheidt says sales are growing, despite increasing competition in the market. He owns the stores with his brother, Don Scheidt, while son Travis Scheidt serves as general manager and daughter Allison Lykins is the business manager. The company employs about 80 people.

Overall, beer accounts for 45% of Cork Liquors’ sales, followed by spirits at 31%, wine at 18%, and tobacco, including cigars, and other miscellaneous merchandise at 6%. “When it comes to product selection, customer demographics and category trends, every store is slightly different,” Scheidt says.

Cork Liquors carries 1,500 beer SKUs, priced from 99 cents for a 12-ounce can of Boxer lager to $39.99 for a 750-ml. bottle of Cascade Manhattan NW wild ale. Scheidt says the craft segment is driving beer growth, with offerings from local producers like Indiana’s 3 Floyds, Sun King, Upland and 18th Street performing particularly well. Spirits are also a growth area. The chain stocks about 2,400 spirits SKUs, priced from $6.49 for a 750-ml. bottle of Kentucky Gentleman to $317.99 for Johnnie Walker Blue Label blended Scotch whisky. Whiskies comprise the largest selection among spirits. Scheidt notes that due to his stores’ proximity to Kentucky, Bourbon is a strong seller. “With about 500 SKUs, I think we have the largest Bourbon selection in southern Indiana,” he says.

Wine sales at Cork Liquors are also on the rise. Some 2,200 wine SKUs are available, priced from $5.49 a 750-ml. bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay to $299.99 for Armand de Brignac Brut Champagne. Wines retailing between $15.99 and $25.99 are most popular overall. “Wine sales have increased with the growth of our communities,” Scheidt says. “Younger consumers are getting more excited about wine than in the past.” Cabernet Sauvignon is the chain’s top-selling varietal, with Moscatos and rosés also performing well.

Cork Liquors has emerged as a leader in southern Indiana, but Scheidt says the Hoosier State is fiercely competitive. He points to Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, and “every gas station and convenience store” as his competition. “Cold beer is the only thing I can sell that they can’t, and they want that,” he says, noting continued efforts by Indiana grocery stores and c-stores to sell refrigerated beer. The boom in craft beer has enabled Cork Liquors and its peers to compete more effectively with big box and grocery chains, as the larger operators don’t offer as much variety. “Craft beer allows us to sell at better margins,” Scheidt explains. Market Watch has a full profile of the Cork Liquors chain on its website.

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